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Water and sanitation challenges and impact on health in informal settlements

Future Health Systems

Access to water is one of the major challenges faced by residents of Freetown, Sierra Leone, and informal settlements are no exception to this problem. Communities’ sources and access to water vary by location. The rapid urbanisation and over population is part of the reasons for the water crisis in the city as the estimated beneficiaries far outweigh the capacity of the national Guma valley water company that is responsible for water supply in the city. The topography of the lands occupied by informal settlements makes their situations even worse to get access to safe drinking water.

This issue brief provides an insight into the current state of water and sanitation challenges in informal settlements. It identifies the following priority actions:

  • Wider provision of public toilets with guiding rules and regulations that can be effected by key trusted community representatives that can be selected by residents
  • Enforcement of community bylaws on the compulsory provision of toilet for the houses built. This can be monitored by the sanitary inspection directorate at the Ministry of Health
  • Maintenance and construction of protection walls or dams around streams, springs and other water catchments with regular treatment to reduce contamination and overdependence on taps whose supply is limited
  • Provision of additional water tanks for communities that cannot dig or easily access pipe water because of either their location or terrain. Also, water tanks provided by the government should be refilled more frequently to ease the burden of distance and cost on community residents
  • Ministry of health and sanitation should place more emphasis on the sensitization and awareness of mosquito abatement, treatment of diarrhoea and the importance of hand washing in preventing sickness and infections by the ministry of health and sanitation through the community health facilities.